April 12th, 2006
Letter to the Editor
Anderson Valley Advertiser
Boonville, CA 95415
Subject: Eighty-Year THPs?
Mendocino Redwood Company hopes to conduct its timber operations under a long-term management plan covering 228,000 acres of its land in Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Mendocino Redwood Company land was formerly owned by a Louisiana-Pacific.
MRC is working with state and federal agencies to craft a Program Timberland Environmental Impact Report/Statement analyzing planned activities for the next 80 years.
The complex, multilayered plan would include a state Natural Communities Conservation Plan (NCCP) and a federal Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) under which Programmatic Timber Harvest Plans would be carried out.
Agencies involved are the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the North Coast Water Quality Control Board.
MRC recently held two public scoping meetings to solicit comments from the public about the proposed plan. Members of the public were not able to address specific elements of the environmental documents which have not yet been released.
Since MRC's goal with this plan is to streamline its operations, the company seeks overarching permits and agreements that would save the time and money associated with project by project permits.
The plan is expected to include a master stream bed alteration agreement, incidental take permits for endangered species, and mitigation measures that would apply to multiple timber harvesting plans.
Meeting attendees questioned the proposed 80-year duration of the plan, fearing that changed conditions would likely make much of the plan obsolete during that period.
People also expressed concerns about the lack of long-term accountability for activities impacting resources in which the public has a vested interest such as water and salmonid fish. It was not clear how much influence the public would have over individual Timber Harvest Plans under the plan.
Other issues raised were the treatment of federally listed spotted owls on MRC land, and the need for assurances that sound science would inform not only the planning process but ongoing operations.
This plan could provide an opportunity for the public, various agencies and a timber company to cooperate in creating a model for sustainable timber/resource management. It could also be a huge bureaucratic smokescreen to allow a timber company to operate without due regard for natural resource protection.
Public comments on the initial scoping session of this project were due on April 10th. But MRC's website provides more information and a timeline for publication of the draft environmental documents.